I grew up very Protestant. So Protestant that I remember asking my RE teacher when I was about 10, “What’s the difference between Catholics and Christians?” It was in a “Do you have any questions for your teacher?” section of the workbook, and my teacher diplomatically replied, “Ask your parents about this.” I can’t remember if I asked them or how they answered if I did. But I grew up with a clear sense that Catholics (and probably Anglicans) valued tradition more than relationship with God. As such, I saw all traditions – Lent with them – as meaningless distractions from God.
As a young adult, and a reluctant Anglican, I came to find that Lent was actually a season that fit me quite nicely. My struggles with mental illness had made me acutely aware of my own dust, and had also made me search to recover the much-needed and…
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This week has seen lots of progress for The Swelling Year. I’ve finished selecting the poems and the first draft has been through its first check-over by another pair of eyes. I’ve also started the process with Lulu, the publisher I’ve chosen, and done the initial set-up of the crowdfunding campaign at Pozible. Lots of action!
Most excitingly, I’ve teed up a collaboration with my highly talented artist friend Robert Kingdom, who designed the banner for this site. Robert will be contributing some of his artwork to the project, and I’m looking forward to keeping you posted on what this will involve. In the meantime, here’s a sample of his work. Go and check out more at his website. And stay tuned for the next update!
I for one enjoy it:
the slow, steady bursting from soil,
those optimistic points of green poking sunward,
the outward spread of tiny tufts,
the promise of patience rewarded.
And so daily I take my little son outside
to see the garden, to “check on the grass”.
All moments are wonders to him, yet I
share the wonder of brown transformed to slow-filling lawn,
the chance that next summer he’ll have carpet for play here,
and I marvel that all our endurance pays off.
I am less inclined to love how stone turns to flesh,
fighting – as it must – against the moss and ivy surrounding it;
less inclined to delight in the decades that it takes
for internal soil to be tilled,
for pruning, manure, for all that needs patience
and costs me myself.
While I daily visit these microscopic green thoughts,
my own garden I have neglected.
Turn over the clumps of dirt; wait another year;
my stubborn tree must one day show fruit.
Hope deferred finds patience no virtue.
Unintentionally, I keep vigil the night before
while my son, restless for the dawn,
unsettled by the changing of the clocks,
bids me stay awake and pray.
Some sleep gained before sunrise, yet when the lights comes
it feels somehow the natural outworking of the night,
for I’ve walked through all its stations,
met its passing watches.
And when it’s time
to take off the rags of sleep and roll back the stone for the sun,
day seems natural, an arrival at home.
Yet when it comes I am weary,
ready to return to night,
and when night comes the routine
of dishes and rubbish bins consumes
the wonders of the vigil past.
Sun and moon and clocks distract:
in spite of us, eternity wins each linear day
and Grace keeps vigil over tapering hearts.
So now: as we wait in rapt expectancy,
will we unwrap our dreams? Our loves?
Or unravel with the pressure,
the hallowed table proving to be full of holes.
When the day and its gestures disappoint,
what will tell us, You matter?
Frantic to complete the list,
we quickly pass the simple scene:
a teenage mother tending her child,
tired from the journey to the in-laws’ town.
Too pressed for time with time-pressing matters,
we miss the divine entrance into our smelly matter.
Our lunchtime squabbles and fights over gifts
are themselves the stage He chose to walk.
The chance to be changed lies within rudest details:
a makeshift crib; soil and straw;
an angry heart with limited room.
Grand plans will have to wait.
Time works differently here:
sometimes it hums,
sometimes skips, sometimes
You will think, “There’s a thought;
I’ll write about that-”
Only – catch the thought, before
nappies and necessity
make it dissipate
in baths at 8
and all that joy – the total joy
that nonetheless necessitates
that all grand plans will have to wait.
At end of day, the poem is this:
the breathing child
upon the chest.
Catch the moment while you can:
stardust spark in the grandest plan.